A Sappi-sponsored programme which helps communities adjacent to forestry plantations to become beekeepers, has shown some unexpectedly encouraging results during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Non-profit consultant and founder of the African Honey Bee programme, Guy Stubbs, who has more than 30 years’ experience in small and micro-enterprise development, was struck by the incredible resilience being demonstrated by the families that have been part of this beekeeping project. Collectively, since the beginning of the year, the participating families have harvested about five tonnes of honey, earning close to R360,000, despite the national lockdown. During a recent survey undertaken in the Sokhulu community in KwaZulu-Natal (North of Richards Bay), where the project has been running for the last couple of years and a new community in Thembalethu, Mpumalanga where training had not yet begun, Guy noticed some marked differences in people’s approach to the situation brought about by the international health crisis. “While the families in Thembalethu were watching TV and waiting for government to hand out food parcels, the 100 families that we interviewed in Sokhulu were producing and even selling vegetables, chickens, eggs and honey,” he says. All 100 families were producing honey, 85 were growing vegetables, 27 were producing eggs and 39 were producing chickens for meat,” he says.
Domtar’s support of American Forest Foundation (AFF) biodiversity conservation initiatives is helping protect at-risk or endangered wildlife, especially in the Southeastern United States.
With help from Domtar and others, AFF is expanding a model designed to enlist landowners in the effort to ensure that biodiversity thrives in a forest habitat.
“Domtar has long recognized the role that family farms and rural landowners play in environmental stewardship, including maintaining habitat for a diverse range of species,” says Paige Goff, vice president for sustainability at Domtar. “This type of engagement fits our goals as well as AFF’s.”
AFF’s biodiversity conservation program began with a pilot project in Alabama that focused on the management of the longleaf pine, home to more than 800 plant and animal species.
AFF recruited landowners as partners, offering technical and financial resources for habitat improvements in exchange for 10 years of access to allow low-cost surveys for populations of gopher tortoise on the land. The pilot has been a success; the number of known tortoise populations in the state, as recorded in these surveys, has increased nearly four-fold.
With help from Domtar and other sponsors, this biodiversity conservation model is expanding beyond the pilot region into new areas and different species.
“We believe this early success can be seen across the tortoise range,” says Chris Erwin, AFF’s director of biodiversity and Southern conservation. “By working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to apply the pilot to a range-wide approach, we can achieve greater biodiversity and prove this concept as an avenue to healthy forests for all manner of wildlife.”
AFF plans to engage at least 500 landowners in habitat management and species population monitoring on at least 109,000 acres. Erwin says that achieving this goal would have a major effect on maintaining and enhancing the biodiversity of the region, catalyzing the long-term survival of 500 populations of at least five at-risk species.